Machine learning—aided personalized DTI tractographic planning for deep brain stimulation of the superolateral medial forebrain bundle using HAMLET

Acta Neurochirurgica (2019) 161:1559–1569

Growing interest exists for superolateral medial forebrain bundle (slMFB) deep brain stimulation (DBS) in psychiatric disorders. The surgical approach warrants tractographic rendition. Commercial stereotactic planning systems use deterministic tractography which suffers from inherent limitations, is dependent on manual interaction (ROI definition), and has to be regarded as subjective. We aimed to develop an objective but patient-specific tracking of the slMFB which at the same time allows the use of a commercial surgical planning system in the context of deep brain stimulation.

Methods The HAMLET (Hierarchical Harmonic Filters for Learning Tracts from Diffusion MRI) machine learning approach was introduced into the standardized workflow of slMFB DBS tractographic planning on the basis of patientspecific dMRI. Rendition of the slMFB with HAMLET serves as an objective comparison for the refinement of the deterministic tracking procedure. Our application focuses on the tractographic planning of DBS (N = 8) for major depression and OCD.

Results Previous results have shown that only fibers belonging to the ventral tegmental area to prefrontal/orbitofrontal axis should be targeted. With the proposed technique, the deterministic tracking approach, that serves as the surgical planning data, can be refined, over-sprouting fibers are eliminated, bundle thickness is reduced in the target region, and thereby probably a more accurate targeting is facilitated. The HAMLET-driven method is meant to achieve a more objective surgical fiber display of the slMFB with deterministic tractography.

Conclusions The approach allows overlying the results of patient-specific planning from two different approaches (manual deterministic and machine learningHAMLET). HAMLET shows the slMFB as a volume and thus serves as an objective tracking corridor. It helps to refine results from deterministic tracking in the surgical workspace without interfering with any part of the standard software solution. We have now included this workflow in our daily clinical experimental work on slMFB DBS for psychiatric indications.